Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Strictly Comes to Bognor

Really looking forward to Sunday afternoon - Ian Waite and Camilla Dallerup will be at the Alexandra Theatre here in Bognor.

As you will realise I am an avid fan of 'Strictly Come Dancing' and 'It Takes Two'. Dancing is in my blood. As a child it was the ballet and tap, then into my teens I learnt ballroom dancing. Unfortunately very few teenage boys wanted to dance so it was mostly us girls dancing together. In my 20s when living in south-east London I was fortunate enough to have lessons at the Frank and Peggy Spencer School of Dance. Unfortunately, I didn't live very long in that area.

Nowadays my ballroom dancing is restricted to cruises where I usually manage to get in quite a few dances with the dance instructor. I am glad to report that my dancing has vastly improved over the past few years.

But - would you believe! - I married a man who disapproved of dancing. Nope, the marriage didn't last that long. And I still don't know why I did it.

Roll on Sunday!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Model Murder - Chapter 1

Wish I was going downhill instead of up, the youth thought, panting heavily as he cycled towards Great Camden and home.  His parents weren’t going to be happy – polite way of putting it, he grimaced, sweat pouring down his fair face.  More like bloody mad at him for being late.  But he and his mate, Dave, had to finish the game, didn’t they?  You can’t leave it at the most exciting part. And it’s only six-thirty now.  He sighed – half-an-hour late!
What’s that? he thought as the road levelled out and he could see something lying in the road ahead of him.  As he came nearer he could see what it was. ‘Fucking Hell!  A body?’
He stopped and stood straddling his bike, his feet looking far too big for the spindly jeans clad legs - as if waiting for the legs to catch up growth wise.  It was a woman in a blue dress. ‘Miss?  Miss, are you alright?’  And he wondered why he’d asked when it was obvious she wasn’t.  It didn’t look as if she was breathing and he didn’t want to touch her.  Yuck! How would he find out if she was alive?
Panic subsided and he pulled out his phone to call the three nines.  Thank goodness it was just the one number. He was sure that if he’d had to find other numbers he would have screwed it up as his fingers were shaking and wet.
‘There’s a lady laying in the road.’
‘Is she alive?’
‘Don’t know.  Can’t see ‘er breathing.’
‘Have you checked?’
‘Don’t know ‘ow.  Look, I’m late getting ‘ome.  Mum and Dad’ll be mad.’
‘How old are you?’
‘Fourteen.  Why?’
‘You sound older.  Can you wait there until someone comes?’
‘Like the cops or someone?’
‘Exactly like the cops.  Where are you?’
‘On the road what comes up towards Great Camden, it turns off a turning off the A twenty-seven.  ‘Bout ten minutes by bike from the town.’
‘What’s your name?’
‘Jezz Watson.’
‘Can you describe yourself?’
‘So they’ll recognise you.’

‘But I’m the only person ‘ere!’  And he switched off the phone.  No way did he want to waste the battery.  He kept looking around – anywhere but at the body.  The trees, the hedges, back the way he’d come.  And towards Great Camden and home. Then he heard the siren.  All blues and twos as the car approached fast.  He waved like mad to stop them. Be a bloody crime if they run over her, he thought.
Available on Kindle:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00JALI8MM

Friday, 8 September 2017

A Favourite Aunt - Into the new house.

In the 1960s it was still the norm for married women to stay at home to look after the house - and their husbands! I often wonder how many people suffered from some of Sylvia's experiences. Here is what happened after they had moved into their new house and Sylvia was really happy to be there.


On Monday morning, having seen Colin off to work, Sylvia danced through the rooms. 'My own home! This is mine! I love it!' Then washed up their breakfast things, made the bed and set about cleaning the place. Yes, the builders had had it cleaned but not very well.
One of the advantages of the minimalist look was that it didn't take long to wash the woodwork and floors downstairs. After lunch Sylvia gave herself a treat and opened up one of the boxes containing some of their wedding presents. This one contained glassware which she carefully washed, dried and put away. Well, as best she could. Tumblers went into the kitchen cupboard but a set of fruit bowls and some wine glasses of hers had to be left on a shelf in the living room until such time as Colin was prepared to buy the living room furniture.
When he arrived home in the evening and noticed the glassware he grumbled, 'You've started unpacking.'
'It has to be done so we can find things,' his wife pointed out.
'Yeah, but can't we do it at the weekends?' he asked sulkily.
'Gardens to be dug over?'
'But we can unpack in the evenings,' he pointed out, adding, 'As you aren't going to go out to work, you can start the digging during the day.'
'Tomorrow I have to walk over to Lingfield,' (about two miles away), 'to do some shopping and when I get back I need to do some baking. If I'm to keep up with the laundry I will have to do some washing and ironing each day. And on Friday I'll need to take the bus to East Grinstead to do the big shop. That's after the baker has been and I've paid him.' Okay so she'd kind of exaggerated a bit but she was entitled to some time to herself wasn't she? 'Anyway, we need to get everything unpacked for when the visitors start arriving. They will want to see their presents are in use.' Or something, she added to herself when she thought of some of the gifts. And wondered where the visitors would sit, bearing in mind that there were only four kitchen chairs.
And, of course, as soon as he came home from work and had changed from his work clothes into something more comfortable Colin expected dinner to be served. And on went the radio and, after cleaning up the dinner things, out came the pack of cards and Sylvia quickly discovered that Colin didn't like losing. She thanked her lucky stars that she was an expert at losing - lessons learned when playing board games with her young sister.
Wet Saturdays were usually spent traipsing around one or other of the two nearby towns. Not to spend money, just to pass the time. Colin didn't read or have any hobbies which was why, she realised, he hadn't allowed her to bring her piano to the house. Also, of course, he couldn't play the piano.
'It's old fashioned and won't fit in with our decor,' he had decreed.
As time passed she also discovered that so far as 'the arts' were concerned, he thought they were a waste of time - and money. Not that he included knitting and sewing as arts. They saved him money.

The next battle was driving lessons. Yes, she could buy bits and pieces in the village, but she had to walk into the next - and larger - village of Lingfield at least once a week for items she couldn't get from the village shop. She could also get a couple of books from the mobile library but that only visited the village once a week. And on Friday day she took the one-an-hour bus to East Grinstead. As an avid reader, when there she also had to go to the library which wasn't in the shopping centre. With several books and all of the shopping it was a heavy load. Admittedly, on some Saturdays Colin drove her into East Grinstead, but not to the library. What she did dread were the wet Saturdays when he couldn't get out into the garden so on said Saturdays he insisted mooching around the shops. Not one of Sylvia's favourite pastimes.
'You know, Colin, it would really help if I could drive. Even if I could only use the car on Saturdays. That would free you up to work in the garden.'
Her husband did not look happy. 'I don't mind taking you shopping on Saturdays. You know I enjoy going around the shops.'
Which, of course, was Sylvia's problem. She just wanted to get around the shops as quickly as possible. Not waste time.
And she discovered over time that she especially didn't enjoy shopping for clothes when he was around. He had very decided views. No sleeveless dresses or blouses and her skirts must cover her knees. And this was the era of the mini-skirts. She also had to be careful at the hairdressers to ensure that not too much was trimmed off. Her hair had to cover her ears.
She continued to try to persuade him. 'If you go to work by train, I could pick you up at the station in the evenings.' After all he could walk downhill to the station in the mornings. 'It would save us some money and I could do the shopping on Fridays, giving us both Saturday in the garden.' She played what she hoped would be her trump card.
He sighed. 'Alright. I'll start teaching you on Sunday.'
That wasn't what she had meant and it turned out to be a lesson she would never forget. With three pedals to choose from and a sprung loaded gear stick the Austin A40 was not the easiest car to learn on. Especially when the teacher kept saying 'Give it more.' More what?
Colin's idea of driving lessons was around the narrow country lanes full of curves and, as it was the weekend, busy with Sunday drivers out enjoying the countryside.

After nearly crashing into a bridge Sylvia gave up. But she wasn't defeated. He might not give her much money for housekeeping but she reckoned she could squeeze enough out of it for driving lessons.

Available on Kindle and in paperback.   https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B072LK5GNV

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Women over 60 Going to Work!

Oh, calamity, women are going to have to work past the age of 60! I can hear the chorus of thousands of women who, like me, have had to do so. In fact, at the age of 79 I am still working.

Where do policitians and journalists get the idea that this is something new? 'Twas ever thus.

It wasn't until the mid-1980s that, when I was in my mid-40s, that I found a job that paid quite well for women. Mind you, it still wasn't the equivalent of men's salaries. Fortunately there was some overtime which I utilised very well. Some saved and some used on travel (when I made copious notes and took loads of photographs). By the mid-90s I had developed Repetitive Stress Injuries in my wrists, right arm and shoulder and lost my job. Did I get compensation? No way - I was working for a large City solicitors. They very generously gave me early retirement with a partial disability pension that didn't even pay the rent.

No chance of retirement for me. So I learned how to become a journalist and here is where the travel paid off. Yes, I was an internationally recognised journalist. Then tourism changed but by this time I had learned how to write novels. Which is why at 79 I am still able to work.

I am one of the lucky ones. Bearing in mind how diabolically low women's wages were for most of the 20th century, women weren't able to save for the future. This was especially hard for single women. No chance of buying their own homes so we are still renting. And rents these days are through the roof. I have to continue working because my State pension only pays my rent.

Instead of bemoaning the fact that in future women will have to work past the age of 60, we all think it is about time the Government did more to help the rest of us. Certainly past the age of 70 no one should have to work to supplement their income. 

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Listening to the Band

What do you do on a wet summer's afternoon? I'd guess most people watch telly. Not me on a Sunday in July. Nor did the people in the almost full auditorium at the Alexandra Theatre in Bognor Regis. We were right royally entertained by the Royal Marines Association Concert Band led by Lt. Col. Chris Davis, OBE.

The concert opened with, naturally, with the National Anthem, followed by a Fanfare. During the first half we were treated to some marches, a Rossini overture and some solos. Jon Yates (former Professor of Trumpet at the Royal Marines School of Music) played the beautiful 'Through the Eyes of Love' and ex-Army lady Lisa Lyster gave us the evocative 'Home Away from Home' on her flute. Both tunes that you will recognise. At the end of the first half we had the music from John Williams for ET.

Following the 20 minute interval (during which much ice-cream was consumed) the second half opened with the overture to Lawrence of Arabia. Can you remember the opening with the heart thumping sound of the timpani? On this occasion Connor Lyster (son of Lisa) wielded the drumsticks. It really was a thrilling opening and Connor looked as if he enjoyed bashing seven bells out of those big brass kettledrums.

This second half had an equally varied programme of music from the Big Band sound to Vaughan Williams. And we had a solo from Conductor Chris Davis - on his electric violin - the exquisite Ashoken Farewell.

Then we came to the Finale. The Evening Hymn and Sunset, a Tribute to the Armed Forces then we all stood and waved flags whilst singing Land of Hope and Glory.

I am now looking forward to next year's concert at the Alexandra Theatre.

For details about the Royal Marines Association Concert Band - and to buy by their CDs and souvenirs - do visit their web site at www.rmacb.org.uk

Most importantly all the monies raised go to Charity.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

South Downs Murder Mysteries

When creating a series of books it is important to give it a name. With my Cleo Marjoribanks series it was easy. I could not ignore the lady! But the South Downs Murder Mysteries seems to have caused confusion for a couple of people. So, let me explain.

The first book, Antiques in the Attic, took place in a fictitious small town at the edge of the South Downs. In the second book, Model Murder, the victim lived in a large house located near this same town. The third book which seems to be causing the problem - Who are the JCs? - has three major locations: A fictitious coastal resort just south of the South Downs, the original town up on the Downs and Southampton.

Once having given the series a name you can't change it otherwise your fans won't recognise it as the same series!

Hope I have cleared the matter up.


Thursday, 6 July 2017

'Ghosts in the Guest House'

An excerpt from the third Cleo Marjoribanks Murder Mysteries - a morning when all did not go according to plan!

Our morning followed the same pattern as the previous day until I decided that I'd had enough of dress shops. 'I want to go and look in that shop that sells Lladro,' I said as we came out of what seemed to be the tenth dress shop.
'You like it?'
'Love it.  I think it's time I added to my collection.'  There was a screech of tyres.  ‘What the.'
A large car had pulled up beside us and both passenger doors flew open.  A couple of men got out.  One grabbed me and the other went for Evita.
Afterwards we agreed that men really should learn not to attack from the rear.  My heel and full weight went down on my assailant's instep.  He yelled and loosened his hold.  I turned and put a knee into his family jewels at the same time swinging my bag at his head.
Then I saw the gun in the driver's hand - he was leaning across the passenger seat to the open door - and continued the bag swing.  Gun dropped and he held his wrist.  Good.  Hope it's broken.
I turned to Evita who was screaming fit to bust and her attacker was trying to hold her and put a hand over her mouth.
'Heel!' I yelled.
Message understood.  It was his turn to yell.  Imagine a drill bit in your instep.  Blimey!  We were doing some serious damage here and passersby were just watching.
'Call the cops!  Policia! Film it!'  I yelled in English and Spanish.
My handbag came into use again on Evita's bloke's head as she struggled to get out of her shoe - it was well and truly embedded in his foot.
Then a shot rang out.
'Everybody down!' I yelled.  No idea why.  Should have yelled 'Run', then they wouldn't have been showered with glass from the shop window.  He'd shot a mannequin - no blood spilled, thank goodness, other than from a few cuts.
Evita got free of her shoe, I just swung out in every direction with my bag and, praise be, along come the cops.  All bells and whistles, so to speak.  Our two attackers scrambled to try to get back in the car which was now moving.  They almost made it but the driver just wanted to escape and put his foot down.  The car shot forward, doors swinging, which hit the other two knocking them to the ground.  The car?  It collided with a cop car.
It didn't take too many policemen to bundle the three dumbos into police cars while other members of the force shuffled the gawpers away and, as more officers arrived, finally penned them behind barriers and started trying to interview them.  I can guess quite a lot of phones were used to take photos or film the action and it looked like some people were showing them to their interviewers.  But I bet a lot weren't and those'll be going onto some social networking sites.
Evita and I were handed into the back of separate police vehicles and I got out my phone to press David‘s speed dial number.
'Excuse me, lady, are you alright?' A plainclothes officer flashed his identity card at me.
I replied in Spanish.  'I am but my bag isn't.  Incidentally, the young lady who is with me,' I pointed at the other cop car, 'is only seventeen.  And she is the one they were after.'
'Momento.' He left and went to the other car to return almost immediately with a tearful and limping Evita - only one shoe.  Good job she was crying as it meant she had most of her face covered with a couple of tissues.
While that was going on I picked up the phone. 'David, you still there?'
'Yeah.  Where are you?  What's 'appened?'

'Someone tried to take Evita.  We fought them off.  We're now in a cop car.' and I gave him directions.  Then put the phone away. Just in time.  'Come here,' I invited Evita who got in beside me and literally fell into my arms.

As some people didn't like the 'cockney-speak' I have now edited it out!